Cambridge imposes restrictions on AirBNB rentals

Cambridge.jpgMost of the focus on AirBNB stems from the money lost from a lack of taxation, an estimated $15 million from around 592,000 guests in Massachusetts last year. However, while other lodging establishments need to adhere to a strict set of municipal regulations, the owner of a unit on AirBNB currently does not.

State Representative Aaron Michlewitz recently proposed a bill that would impose safety and insurance regulations on top of taxing units, stating: “The taxation without the regulation piece is where the debate stands now”.

While some municipalities are waiting to see what the state decides to do, the Cambridge City Council has already voted to impose their own regulations on AirBNB rentals. Only hosts who live in the same or adjacent building would be allowed to make their units available. These units would need to be registered with the city and concede to inspections once every five years.

This would allow owners to continue to collect income from short-term rental units while ensuring guest safety. The new restrictions will take effect in April 2018.

It’s estimated that about 90,000 guests used AirBNB to find accommodations in Cambridge last year.

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Shared Wheels and Cheap Rides: You don’t need a car in Chicago!

In most areas of the country having a car is a necessity. However, in Chicago one has always been able to get away without having a vehicle, and it’s only getting easier to do so.

2I’ve been a resident of the greatest city in the Midwest for 13 years and I just got my first car. I owned a home before leasing or owning a car and didn’t give it a second thought. I was even a landlord before considering having a car to fill my empty parking spot.

Between the CTA and Metra, Chicago has one of the best public transportation systems in the country.

The El is an easy way to get from almost any of the 77 city neighborhoods into the Loop, and almost every major street has bus service. Car sharing services such as Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare have been available for over a decade and continue to grow. In just four years the divvy bike share system has gone from 75 stations and 750 bikes to 620 stations and 6,200 bikes, and data shows that 42% of divvy rides are for work commutes.

Many argue that Uber and Lyft make it easier than ever to go car-less, and in the grand scheme of things those are relatively new to the market.

So how can it possibly get easier for Chicagoans without a vehicle? The transit-oriented developments are beginning to multiply. Several years ago incentives were offered to builders who developed multi-unit dwellings within a specified distance from transit stations. This program allowed developers to dedicate fewer parking spots per unit than the law previously acceptable. The initiative generated so much positive development activity that the specified distance from a transit station was quickly doubled, and the number of parking spaces was brought down further if developers agreed to build in alternative transit options such as zip car parking or divvy stations.

3There are now literally thousands of units available (and many more on the way) for carless Chicagoans to choose from that are mere steps from El stations. If a resident of a TOD (transit oriented development) needs to rent a zipcar to go play golf in the suburbs they probably do not need to leave their building to do so. If a person needs to travel between two points that are not on the same train or bus line quickly and cheaply there is guaranteed to be a divvy station close to both the departure point and destination.

In Chicago you can always get where you want to go, and unlike many other cities you can do this while avoiding huge car and insurance payments along the way!

Save time with online rental applications

If you’re a landlord, tenant, or an agent, time is of the essence when it comes to the rental jungle. So why does such a large portion of the industry still use paper applications? Why do they rely on credit/background checks that take days to process? Having a fast and efficient tool for every stage in the rental process is crucial for all parties; which is exactly we partnered with TransUnion and created our own Online Application Tool.

Rental Beast is here to make paper applications a thing of the past by. Why does this matter to you?

Why should I care as a Landlord?

  1. The majority of our applications can be processed almost instantaneously, so, as a landlord, you don’t have to wait days for your applicants information to be generated! More speed = decreased vacancy rates!
  2. All your applications in one spot! Whether you have one property, or a dozen, all your applications will be present in one dashboard.
  3. Reduce your liability! Paper applications must be destroyed correctly to ensure the documentation does get into malicious hands. Rest easy, as our application dashboard completely secure!

 

Why should I care as a tenant?

Let’s imagine you have two potential tenants, both of which have identical credentials are applying their dream rental…

Tenant 1 uses our online application tool, while Tenant 2 uses a paper application.

Within hours, Tenant 1 is accepted by the landlord and they can be fully moved in by the time Tenant 2‘s application is fully processed.

Nobody wants to be Tenant 2.

Suburban Rent Prices on the Rise

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 2.18.55 PMWhen you think of more affordable housing, you think of the suburbs; more space, more land, better prices from homes to rentals.  However, as millennials begin to wiggle their way into the real estate market, pricing in the suburbs seems to be suffering.  

In the last year the cost of renting a home in the suburbs has risen higher than the cost of renting in the city.  In a new release by Zillow, median monthly cost of suburban rents rose by 2.5% while urban rents only rose by 2.3%.  

This is a stark difference from last year where urban rental prices were up 5% while suburban rental prices were closer to 3%.  The cities that are experiencing the fastest increases are Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco.  San Francisco experienced an urban rental price drop of 0.4% and a 2.6% increase in suburban rental price.      

The more prominent examples of this trend reside in cities where rent affordability is a main issue.  Renters who are paying more than 44% of their income in rent, like San Francisco, are the driving force here.  

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 2.18.55 PMAs rent continues to rise in cities, renters will either have to make due or forfeit their apartments for cheaper options elsewhere.  Choosing a longer commute for a drop in rent prices seems to be the main solution.  

While these statistics only define renting, home ownership plays a huge part in it.  Most millennials would like to buy a home but lack the assets, especially the down payment, to realistically make the jump.  With rent prices on the rise, and the inability to buy homes, there is no reason to not expect this trend to continue into 2018.     

Will we see a mass exodus of city renters transitioning to suburbs?  What effect will this have on the pricing of rentals and homes?  Only time will tell.    

Where are the best places to live in Massachusetts?

2.jpg(via RealEstate.Boston) If you are not from The Bay State but wanted to move here, how would you decide where to live? A site such as Niche.com would be a great place to start, as they combine rigorous analysis with reviews from millions of people to uncover the best places to live and go to school.

They recently released their updated list for Massachusetts, assigning an overall Niche Grade based on criteria that includes grades for public schools, housing, good for families, jobs, cost of living, outdoor activities, crime and safety, nightlife, diversity, weather, health and fitness, and commute. Data sources include reviews from actual residents, as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the FBI, and the Census.

Among the top ten towns and cities in the state is Sharon, Sudbury, Newton, Wayland, Belmont, Boxborough, Wellesley, and Brookline, with the town of Lexington ranked as the best place to live in Massachusetts in 2017. Lexington received an A+ grade for public schools and good for families, A grades for outdoor activities, health and fitness, and commute, and A- grades for jobs, crime and safety, and diversity.

The city of Cambridge, which landed 12th on the state’s list, was ranked 11th on Niche’s 2017 Best Cities to Live in America list, receiving top marks for public schools, good for families, outdoor activities, nightlife, and commute.

The city of Boston, ranked 262nd on the state’s list, received an overall Niche Grade of B+, brought down by its poor grades in crime and safety, cost of living, public schools, and housing.

Although these type of sites are a good initial resource, a local expert in the leasing market can provide invaluable insight. Rental Beast is partnered with some of the best-trained real estate agents in the business who can help their clients make more informed decisions and find the perfect place to rent or buy.

Tips & Tricks to avoid Rental Scams

1Rental scams are at a fever pitch right now, and protecting yourself and your money while apartment hunting should be your number 1 priority.

In most cases, using common sense will help you stay out of trouble (we’ve all heard of the Nigerian Prince who will wire you a Million dollars as long as you cover the transaction fee) but even a street smart consumer can be fooled by a believable scam. Here are some tip & tricks to avoiding being duped.

1. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is…

1That newly renovated townhouse with all new stainless steel appliances, a small outdoor patio complete with a finished garden, and large three car garage that just happens to be in the heart of the city, and is going for a fraction of average rental? Yeah, thats too good to be true. Business Insider’s tip #6 is great advice – “Trust your intuition.” If the apartment of your dreams is at a price you didn’t even think possible, it is most likely a scam.

2. Never, under any circumstance, wire money to someone you have never met.

1Boston.com details the nightmare situation of finding out you have been duped online. If a landlord “had an emergency come up” or is “out of state working another property” do not wire them money to secure the apartment! Wait until they they are back (if they are actually coming back) and see the listing then. In the meantime, start your search up again. I can guarantee you, starting your apartment search over again is much less of a headache then wiring a few thousand dollars you will never get back!

3. See the listing in person!

1This is easily the best advice you can take to ensure you are not getting duped online. Schedule a showing, tour the apartment, and then you can start the process of actually applying for the apartment. If you physically cannot be present for the showing, make sure someone you trust is. Touring the apartment is your best way to ensure you are not getting scammed. Not to mention, actually seeing the apartment you will be renting for at least a year is a great idea.

The underlying theme in these tips? Common sense. Do not get yourself into trouble by rushing the apartment rental process. Take your time, do you your homework, and actually see the apartment in person.

Renting & Buying with the “Walk Score” in Mind

1The “Walk Score” is a procedurally generated number assigned to addresses to determine their specific walkability.  The true value in this number is that the higher it is, the less likely you will need a car to comfortably live.  The “Walk Score” calculates the distances to certain amenities that most renters and buyers look for; grocery stores, public transit, nightlife, etc..  Whether you are in the market for a temporary rental or your next home, this score provides a wealth of information.

Walk Score,” an automated efficiency model, has adapted its information gathering to provide scores not only on walkability, but also transit, biking, and crime.  Taking into account all of these different metrics, walk scores range from 0 to 100.  Scores ranging from 0 – 24 dictate a car as an absolute necessity while scores 70 and above suggest that you can accomplish all errands on foot.  

The most obvious money saving benefit of the “Walk Score” is  removing most, if not all, driving from your daily routine.  Save on gas, upkeep, and maintenance, and take public transit to work.  

walkConvenience is the other major selling point of the “Walk Score.”  Easy access to amenities and recreation can make or break a neighborhood.  Higher walk scores typically translate into higher quality neighborhoods.  Pedestrian Friendliness is determined too, by analyzing population density, block length, and intersection density.

On the other side of the argument, a high “Walk Score” often results in higher prices.  In a study done by Redfin, one point of “Walk Score” was worth up to $3000.

Most websites, including RentalBeast.com, feature the score on their listings.  So before you make your next move, make sure to check the “Walk Score.”